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astonishment, the Major rose, leant across the table,
and shook hands with me.

"How are you, Sherston? I'm glad to see you back
again." His deep voice had its usual kindly tone, but
his manner betrayed acute embarrassment. No one
could have been less glad to see me back again than he
was. But he at once picked up his cap and asked me
to come with him to his room, which was only a few
steps away. Silently we entered the hut, our feet
clumping along the boards of the passage. Speechless
and respectful, I accepted the chair which he offered
me. There we were, in the comfortless little room
which had been his local habitation for the past
twenty-seven months. There we were; and the un-
fortunate Major hadn't a ghost of an idea what to say.

He was a man of great delicacy of feeling. I have
seldom known as fine a gentleman. For him the inter-
view must have been as agonizing as it was for me. I
wanted to make things easier for him; but what
could I say? And what could he do for me, except,
perhaps, offer me a cigar? He did so. I can honestly
say that I have never refused a cigar with anything
like so much regret. To have accepted it would have
been a sign of surrender. It would have meant that
the Major and myself could have puffed our cigars
and debated—with all requisite seriousness, of course
—the best way of extricating me from my dilemma.
How blissful that would have been! For my indis-
cretion might positively have been "laughed off" (as
a temporary aberration brought on, perhaps, by an
overdose of solitude after coming out of hospital). No
such agreeable solution being possible, the Major be-
gan by explaining that the Colonel was away on
leave. "He is deeply concerned about you, and fully
prepared to overlook the"—here he hesitated—"the